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Take it to the Max: Top 4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Med School

Spinal_Tap_-_Up_to_ElevenHaving just completed my financial aid exit interview, it’s clear that medical school has a huge cost. There are no two ways about it.

“But,” I asked myself, “How much value did I get out of it?” Being the analytical type that I am, I broke it down into its native equation:

Value = Benefits/Cost

As the monetary cost is more or less fixed, the secret to getting the most value out of medical school is to do what it takes to provide yourself with the largest collective benefit possible in your four short years.

Below, I’ve given you four tips to help you maximize your medical school career, and set you up for your brightest future possible.

1. Pursue mastery and strive to be the best version of yourself

Sure, you could skirt by, do well enough in classes, do great on boards, and get through medical school with the least amount of pain possible. But, you will be FAR better off if you cultivate the desire to learn as much as possible about everything, regardless of your desired field of study.

Being a master of your domain will afford you the opportunity to serve your peers, to make your residents’ lives easier, and allow you to shine in front of your attendings. Plus, the drive that you cultivate will spill over to other areas of your life, and you will find yourself giving 100% effort to your relationships, to your health, and to anything that you focus on.

Surely you’ve come across that professor or clinician who is simply brilliant and seems to know more than everyone else. Get inspired and strive to be the best possible version of yourself! As an added bonus, by giving your all in your basic science coursework and clinical rotations, preparing for boards will be remarkably easier.

2. Build a foundation

“Why do we have to learn this?” is a question that you will hear often, and a question that’s a waste of energy to ask. Medical school is the time to build the fund of medical knowledge that you will call upon throughout your entire career.

It’s impossible to erect a strong building on a weak foundation; your career and knowledge will SUFFER if you don’t strive to excel now. If you want to become a vascular surgeon, having good hands is not enough—you’d better internalize the pathophysiology of atheroma formation. And there is no better time to start to wrap your head around foamy macrophages than in your basic science years.

Building a strong foundation from day one will make it easier to rock your boards, match into your dream program, and build the career you desire and deserve.

3. Throw out cynicism and laziness to find merit in everything

There will be days when the world has beaten you up. This is normal, and it happens to everyone. Whether it’s 6 hours of esoteric lectures about inborn errors of metabolism, or a 30-hour sleepless surgery call, there will be days that you ask yourself, “What did I sign up for?” The difference is in our reactions to these situations.

We can complain and build passive-aggressive frustration, or we can use those four “annoying” consults that came in from 1-5 a.m. as four unforgettable learning and character-building experiences. Every single patient, experience, and lecture that we have is an opportunity for learning and growth. You can dismiss them as unimportant, or you can find the value in them and continue to grow. Plus, the next time you see a similar scenario, whether it’s in a Step 2 CK question, or as an intern on night float, having capitalized on the experience the first time around will make the second time a breeze.

And  perhaps the most important:


Ask any of the most successful people of the last couple centuries, and they will tell you that having an incredible mentor will provide you with an absolute shortcut to success. A mentor will hold you to a higher standard and bring out the best in you. They will guide you when you need it, and help you to avoid mistakes that they have made. They will connect you with other professionals who will add value to your life and career.

There is no substitute for someone who has already achieved greatness and wants to help you do it, too.

A personal mentor of mine was an otolaryngologist who seemed to have 30+ hours in his day, and with them, the ability to be a phenomenal surgeon, awarded educator, and prolific publisher. On top of that, he would carve out an entire day of the week toward helping students achieve their goals as well. Spending an hour with him would always invigorate me, squashing my excuses of “being tired” or “having already worked hard enough that day.”


Let this be your motto in life. Take advantage of every single opportunity that you possibly can. Attending medical school is a privilege—it is up to you to be proactive and make the absolute most out of every single experience. Every investment you make in yourself now will pay larger and larger dividends in the future. The only extra “cost” in the value equation is hard work, and that is what you signed up for.